Letter From New York September 8, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Saturday will be September 11th, the ninth anniversary of 9/11, a day that will not be forgotten by anyone sentient that day and this side of paradise. We, as a country, are indelibly marked by the events of that day.

A friend asked me what I thought I had learned from 9/11. How had the world changed? Were there any good things that had come of this?

Good, I wondered. Good? What good things could have come from that day?

I find myself staggered, still, by the acts of loving kindness I saw between people that day. There were two African American women who took an elderly Jewish man under their wing and commandeered the universe to see that he got where he was going. There was a bus driver who just did his best to keep everyone moving, moving away from Ground Zero. There was a woman who spoke Connecticut lockjaw but who took her time to take a man, not from her social class, under her wing and see that he got where he was going.

New York changed with 9/11. Already on its way to being a better city, it has become a much better city. The ranting for which New York was so well known has subdued. It began with the need for quiet following 9/11, when any loud noise sent tremors of fear through those who heard it.

One of my favorite stories following 9/11 was that of one of the trade unions here in New York. The man who had the coffee cart at the corner near their office was Muslim. Realizing he might be an object of vindictive behavior by fellow New Yorkers, the union set up guards to make sure he was not harassed, not troubled, not hurt. I weep when I tell that story.

What’s been positive about this?
For one, I know I need to understand and pay attention to one of the great religions of the world. Islam. Incredibly complicated and incredibly nuanced. Just like Christianity. I am beginning to learn the differences between Shia and Sunni and Sufi. The folks who are building the reviled Cordoba Center are apparently Sufis, who are reviled by Osama Bin Laden. Which demonstrates that Islam is not a united front. And if Osama Bin Laden reviles them, should we?

General Petraeus recently asked the group down in Florida that is planning on holding a Quran burning party not to do it because it will endanger troops. I yield to the Commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. If he tells me to stand down, I think I would. We need to think about the implications of actions. And to learn that is a good thing.

What I have learned has grown from the pain and suffering of 9/11, from breathing in the acrid smoky air of the city that day and the days that followed, from walking through streets, litter filled with debris blowing up from Ground Zero, from walking shell shocked through the empty, quiet streets of the busiest city in America. I was there. I walked it. I breathed that air. I smelt death in the streets; no amount of washing the sewers could completely cleanse that smell from where I was, two blocks north of the evacuation zone.

We have entered into a brutal age and unless we become clear about whom exactly we are fighting it will become an even more brutal age and that is not what we need. The Crusaders brought blind brutality to the Holy Land and we are still paying the price of that. What 9/11 has taught me is to acknowledge the huge work that needs to be done if we, the human race, are going to survive, to live in peace. And that is, at best, a distant golden goal when facing some who look to the past and not the future. To acknowledge that, to face that squarely, is a positive thing.

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One Response to “Letter From New York September 8, 2010”

  1. writetools Says:

    I am glad others are still sharing their experiences and thoughts on 9/11, it is important to keep the lessons we learned from that day fresh in our memories. I just wrote on blog on where I was…in the middle of the outback in Austrailia. Watching it unfold on FOX with about 300 Marines in an underground bunker. I WILL never forget. I couldn’t hold back tears writing it, even nine years later. You are right, we should never forget. Thanks for your post. Amie
    http://www.writetools.wordpress.com

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